Rhett Miller plays diverse selections from the American music catalog — from “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” — in the latest installment of the Mighty Song Writers web series.
The Old 97’s frontman kicks off his 20-minute set with “Big River,” a song written by Johnny Cash in 1958. Miller says it was Cash’s favorite song he ever wrote. Miller’s is a traditional performance, with the singer offering a few emphatic whoops and hollers as he backs himself up on acoustic guitar.
The stunner, however, is Miller’s interpretation of Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” originally recorded by the Shirelles in 1960. Miller plays it on guitar, but points out that it was written on piano.
“The medium is not the message, the song is the song: you can play it on a piano, guitar, ukulele, kazoo. It doesn’t matter. You’re creating something that’s an idea and can be performed in many different ways,” he says, encouraging young writers. “Perhaps you’re writing a poem, but maybe that poem can become a song… Don’t worry too much about the rules. Just start making things and let them dictate what they want to be.”
Miller caps his performance with a rendition of his own composition, the love song “Question,” originally released on the Old 97’s’ 2001 album Satellite Rides. The band released their 12th studio album, Twelfth, last month.
Mighty Writers is a nonprofit organization that inspires children to express themselves through writing.